Gameday predictions: UCLA vs. Arizona State
(Rachel Bai/Daily Bruin)
Prediction: UCLA 31, Arizona State 27
The Bruins’ season is on the line Saturday.
UCLA football is just one game out of first place in the Pac-12 South, and a victory over No. 24 Arizona State could actually get its season back on track. A historic comeback over Washington State is a great footnote and beating Stanford for the first time in over a decade is a nice consolation to a 2-5 start, but there’s more left to accomplish for this year’s Bruins.
And I think they can do it this weekend.
Heading into Bruin Family Weekend in 2018, UCLA was also 2-5 with an upcoming home game against a ranked opponent. It would go on to get blown out by Utah 41-10 and the season was essentially flushed down the drain.
Maybe I’m just a blind optimist, but I’d like to think something has changed over the last 365 days.
Sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has established himself as a true dual-threat and redshirt senior running back Joshua Kelley finally got back on track with a 176-yard performance against Stanford last week.
The Bruins’ typically lackluster pass rush picked up seven sacks against the Cardinal last week, and they are facing an equally depleted and inexperienced offensive line when the Sun Devils visit the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels is explosive and easily more talented than Stanford’s Jack West, but both are still young quarterbacks.
Daniels has certainly had some big games – like his 26-for-36, 363-yard, three-touchdown performance against Washington State. But he has some equally abysmal games as well, the worst of which was a 4-for-18, 22.2 passer rating output in the Sun Devils’ 21-3 loss to the Utes almost a week ago.
If UCLA’s pass rushers stay hot, Thompson-Robinson carries his momentum back to the Rose Bowl and Kelley plays like his 2018 self, the Bruins will somehow still be in the thick of the race for the Pac-12 title.
Football beat reporter
Prediction: UCLA 27, Arizona State 23
Call me a fool, but I’m optimistic the Bruins will actually do something positive with their momentum this week.
Thompson-Robinson has had arguably the two best starts in his career in the past two games he’s been able to play start to finish, and the defense is fresh off its best performance in a decade.
Arizona State is 5-2 with its only bad outing coming against a formidable Utah team, but this feels like the perfect storm for an upset.
UCLA is due for a home win after starting the season 0-3 at the Rose Bowl, and every aspect of the team is trending upward after last week’s victory at Stanford. If anything was going to be able to rile up the then-1-5 Bruins, snapping an 11-year losing streak against a conference rival certainly felt like the way to do it.
The Sun Devils have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball between running back Eno Benjamin and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, but the defense should welcome the challenge on the heels of its massive performance a week ago. After being carved up by opposing offenses for a majority of the first half of the season, I expect to see the defense embrace its newfound success and string together another solid performance.
The emergence of UCLA redshirt freshman wide receiver Kyle Philips, who caught 10 passes for 100 yards and made two touchdowns last week, as well as the return of the running game that had great success at the end of last season, are two more reasons to be optimistic heading into this weekend.
I might be crazy, but I think there will be some happy Bruin fans Saturday night.
Assistant Sports editor
Prediction: Arizona State 31, UCLA 24
It’s time the Bruins get a reality check.
I covered most of the football practices this past week and it’s pretty safe to say that every player I spoke with was understandably pumped after UCLA’s 34-16 win over Stanford on Oct. 17.
You’ve heard it all by now – the offense and sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson played a stellar game, while the defense arguably stole the show with a seven-sack outing, holding the Cardinal to under 200 yards on the night.
But when asked about what the difference was between the Stanford game and the rest of UCLA’s less-than-glamorous outings, most of the responses were something along the lines of “It’s just the mindset” or that coach Chip Kelly promoted a fun and loose style of defense.
Let’s be clear as to the real reason why the Bruins’ defense had a season-best outing against the Cardinal – they were facing a third-string quarterback making his first career start, protected by an offensive line that combined for just 21 starts before Thursday’s game.
But the same won’t be the case against Arizona State.
The Sun Devils managed to put up just three points against the then-No. 13-ranked Utes last week, but UCLA’s porous defense is no Utah.
Look for Arizona State to bounce back in a big way, with quarterback Jayden Daniels shaking off a poor performance in Salt Lake City. Surrounded by a veteran receiver core, the true freshman will certainly have options against a Bruin secondary that has struggled this season.
Daniels will probably have chances to do damage with his legs too. While he has only racked up 206 yards on the ground this year, I don’t see the Bruins’ front seven as being disciplined enough to keep Daniels in the pocket.
But who knows? Maybe if the Bruins’ defense decides to just have fun again, everything will be well and good in Westwood.
Prediction: UCLA 17, Arizona State 10
I can’t pretend I know very much about football – most of my knowledge comes from my uncle during Thanksgiving and my family’s annual Super Bowl parties.
If I were to guess, however, I think UCLA has a shot.
The Sun Devils may have three more wins than the Bruins this season, but UCLA’s most recent win over Stanford means more for the team considering its disappointing performance this season so far.
I wouldn’t credit last week’s win to a sudden turnaround from the Bruins, however – it seems to have come more from an uncharacteristically poor showing from the Stanford offense rather than a great outing by UCLA’s defense.
However, the Sun Devils rank 98th out of FBS schools in total offense, so if the Bruins manage to catch them on a bad day, UCLA might have a chance.